EETD Researchers Help Identify Effective CCS Deployment Strategies

August 2012

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies offer an opportunity to mitigate carbon emissions from coal power plants, which continue to supply more of the world's electricity than any other single source. However, the most effective deployment strategies and the cost of the technology's application are still uncertain.

Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD) researchers Roger Sathre and Eric Masanet recently completed a study that helps to alleviate some of this uncertainty. Their research examined several plausible pathways for CCS deployment, to determine and compare the energy and climate implications of the different pathways by integrating three analytical elements: scenario projection of energy supply systems, temporally explicit life cycle modeling, and time-dependent calculations of radiative forcing.

The scenarios represented three different CCS deployment strategies: (1) no CCS, (2) CCS for only new power plants, and (3) CCS for existing and new power plants. The scenarios for the U.S. coal-fired power fleet extended to the year 2100, to account for the full life span of the existing fleet of coal power plants. The study examined cumulative primary energy use; cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen oxides; and cumulative radiative forcing for each scenario.

Sathre and Masanet showed that over the 90-year period:

  • 28 percent more primary energy would be used for scenario 3 than for scenario 1 (highlighting the energy required by the CCS process itself);
  • cumulative emissions in scenario 3 would be 56% less than for scenario 1, and the emissions rate lessens earlier, in the 2030s, than it would under scenario 2 (showing the importance of widespread, early deployment to achieve the most effective mitigation); and
  • the cumulative radiative forcings for scenarios 2 and 3 are 26% less and 44% less, respectively, than that of scenario 1 (emphasizing the effectiveness of the technology in curbing the effects of carbon emissions).

Other important findings were that:

  • widespread implementation of CCS could significantly reduce GHG emissions and radiative forcing, but that it would require substantial amounts of additional primary energy to implement;
    • widespread and timely deployment of the technology is more important than its level of efficiency, although higher efficiency could lower costs and speed CCS deployment ;
    • a long-term perspective is important when considering climate effects of changes to the energy system; and
    • long-term scenario analysis can contribute to informed policymaking by showing a range of possible futures and their drivers.

Additional Information

Sathre, Roger and Eric Masanet. "Long-Term Energy and Climate Implications of Carbon Capture and Storage Deployment Strategies in the US Coal-Fired Electricity Fleet." Environmental Science & Technology. August 2, 2012.

Schrope, Mark. "Sooner Is Better For Coal Emissions Scrubbing." Chemical & Engineering News. August 20, 2012

Marshall, Christa. "Researchers Say a Surge of Carbon Capture Units Will Be Needed by 2050." ClimateWire. August 20, 2012

Mark WIlson


Roger Sathre (510) 486-5223